C_Vallion

6.7.2021- C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 2.5 (revision/merge of 2 and 3) RevA - (mild L,G,V) - 5471 Words

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Hello, All!
After the feedback on Chapter 4, I will be planning to move Ali's introduction to later, once the existing PoVs are better established.

I wasn’t sure whether to submit this or just continue forward, but I think the gap between now and my previous submission, along with the fact that it now ends in a different place, made it more worthwhile to submit it before moving on to the next one, which will immediately follow this one.

Content warning: Mild language. Mild gore. Mild violence.  Reference to PTSD. Depiction of panic attack. As usual, nothing graphic all around, but I like to provide a heads up.

So. Things I’m looking for here:

  1. Does this do a better job of presenting Al’s motivations as more than just helping the princess?
  2. Previously, there was some trouble with the king stepping in and taking over, and Al just helplessly observing.  Does this fix some of those issues to make Al more active through the second half?
  3. I’m a little concerned that there’s just too much happening in this chapter.  Are there things that are getting bogged down in the details or that seem either confusing or unnecessary? Or that could be trimmed back?
  4. Any spots that were especially interesting or engaging?

Thanks so much!

Edited by C_Vallion
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Overall

I definitely don't think there is too much going on. I think the number of events are pretty reasonable, however I feel like they were mostly teases, which upset me as a reader. The tension would build (the fight, the spellstones, the poison transfer) and then nothing would come of it. There are three major tension events, but no tension outcomes, which leaves me feeling like reader promises were not kept--especially with the spellstones. I think there's a missed opportunity here to have A have effects of the spellstones or the poison cloud his hearing or equilibrium or something during the king talking (which was Plotful but not very dynamic) which would give much-needed tension to the info dump beat.

It's getting better, and A does feel like his own character, interacting with the plot now. Now I'd like the plot to deliver on reader promises, and maybe spend less time getting info dumps from A's thought process. 

I think mostly I'm grumpy because I really loved the part with the spellstones and was expecting BIG TIME SHENANIGANS. More spellstone trouble, please.

 

As I go

- pg 1: this page has all the makings of a good, tense chapter opening, but is bogged down in words and, I'm not sure how to describe it...turned phrases that bleed out the tension. An example:

Spoiler

A pulled himself up straighter, reaching for some semblance of authority. “Lead me to the healers’ wing,” he said without slowing. What would the man do, cut down a duke on the palace stairs? Probably not. At least not while he was carrying the princess. 

The guard hesitated, looking from Al to the arena uncertainly, then growled out a curse and turned.  He pulled door open and held it, following Al through into the spellstone-lit halls of the palace.  Once inside, the guard took off with brisk, determined strides.  Al clenched his teeth and hurried after him, flinching when a quick turn down a side corridor drew a weak, pained cry from the woman in his arms. 

Because we are in TENSION and in a rush, the narrative should also be snappier, I feel. That way it conveys the tension you want. Consider something like:

A straightened and blew past the guard without slowing. "Lead me to the healer's wing or cut me down. Just make your decision quickly."

The guard hesitated, looked A to the arena, cursed, and turned. He pulled open the door and led A through the spellstone-lit hall, his pace almost too brisk to follow, especially with the princess weakly fighting A's hold.

 

Or something. I feel like there are just too many words right now for the type of QUICK HURRY DANGER you likely want to convey here

- pg 2: This is a critical line: 

Two days in, and he’d stumbled into a royal assassination attempt. 

Goddess preserve him. 

That I think gets lost with all the mental musing before it. 

- pg 6: through here is just very internal, a lot of musing and thoughts when I want there to be more movement and action and talking. I think that's why its so hard for me to stay invested in A--he's really internal even when he's performing actions

- the part with the fight where A realizes the other guy 'couldn't' have done it is nice

- pg 11: I got excited that the spellstone was being lied about but then nothing came of it, which was disappointing. 

- pg 13: yes, very disappointed in the spellstone section. Now he's just talking to the king. We had all this good buildup and then just...fizzle. Same with the fight, though at least they fought

- pg 16: I'd be far more engaged with this chatting and political stuff if A had been spellstone poisoned or something and was struggling to stay away while it was going on, so the tension was continuing up

- I'm not sure that last beat is necessary. The part about A having poison on his clothes could easily be moved to an earlier scene and cause him to actually faint or something, which would increase tension

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As I read:

p1 - I like that we are connecting Al's emotional reaction to his personal history straight away. I think you could improve it by being less vague - dropping hints about his mysterious backstory would be intriguing, and the specificity would help us connect more to his character.

p3 - I like the description of Al's panic here, and the way you introduce the oaths to the king.

p5 - Al's reasoning for going to talk to the tournament officials seems a bit weak. I get that he's keeping himself busy to stave off the emotional turmoil, but it would feel less contrived if he had a stronger justification - maybe he could rationalise that smoothing things over might mitigate political fallout and help T-bor?

p5 - For similar reasons, I think Al needs a stronger reason to trust and approach Lord D. Or, you could find some other way to get them talking.

p11 - The healer's explanation for why she was trying to put Al to sleep makes more sense than it did in the previous version. His presence and knowledge of the assassination attempt is inconvenient for them, so they're trying to disappear him, right?

p12 - The fact that the king et al are now apparently okay with Al being there clashes with a minute ago when they were trying to get rid of him.

p12 - 'He liked to think all would be well.' - This seems off. I think it should be more along the lines of Al trying to convince himself that it will be okay. As is, it reads as 'I'm sure everything will be fine', which does not match up with Al's mental state in the rest of the chapter up until now.

p13 - The reveal that the healer was trying to save everyone from social awkwardness deflates the tension, I think. It seemed like there was intrigue and danger, but then it turns out that actually there was nothing there.

p14 - I like that Al is now the one who figures out the mage situation. It makes him feel more involved.

p15-16 - Al standing up to the king isn't as engaging as I think it should be. I think the problem is that the king appears to be of the same opinion as Al - mages are illegal and the king can't break the law - and that makes it feel like nothing is going on here. There's no conflict between their stated opinions, and we don't have a reason to believe that the king is being duplicitous.

p19 - I like this chapter ending. It gives us a direction to expect the story to go in.

 

1) Yes, I think this does a much better job than the last version with Al's motivations and mental state. Putting his main concerns up front and having his panic issues be a through line works to characterise him much better, and he comes across as a stronger character as a result.

2) As I noted above, the part where Al works out the mage situation works, but I don't think the moment where he pushes back against the king works. In general, though, I didn't have an issue with Al's level of agency in the back half of the chapter. It's okay for a POV character to spend a few pages just observing.

3) I have no issues with the pacing in this chapter.

4) As well as the good bits I pointed out above, I like the queen better in this version. We have enough context to understand what she's talking about, and she makes a strong argument for calling in the mage. That makes her more memorable.

Also: I know we have ragged on about the sequence with the healer trying to trick Al with the sleep stone, but I still have issues with the logic behind it. It just seems like the healer could solve the problem in a much quicker and easier way than trying this trick - she could just tell Al that the family need space, or she could point out his ongoing presence to the queen. It's a cool sequence that explains some basic magic mechanics to the reader, so I get why you want to have it play out. But then it falls apart and deflates some of the tension, which is a real problem for the chapter as a whole.

You can take this idea or leave it: one possible fix is to move the sleep stone sequence later in the chapter, and imply that Al narrowly avoided something bad happening by not falling for it.

So, order of events: Al arrives back in his rooms, gets update from T, king comes in, queen comes in and gives away the info about the mage, everyone realises that Al just accidentally heard a very sensitive secret, Al expresses his opinion to the king and creates drama, then the healer pulls him aside to 'check his wounds' and tries to pull the sleeping trick on him, Al figures out that this would be a convenient way to throw him in a cell without causing a diplomatic incident, then Al and T relocate before the royal family can think of a better way to arrest him.

I think doing things in that order would ratchet up the tension and danger over the course of the chapter and also provide a better justification for the healer's trick.

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On 6/7/2021 at 9:32 AM, C_Vallion said:

 

  1. Does this do a better job of presenting Al’s motivations as more than just helping the princess?
  2. Previously, there was some trouble with the king stepping in and taking over, and Al just helplessly observing.  Does this fix some of those issues to make Al more active through the second half?
  3. I’m a little concerned that there’s just too much happening in this chapter.  Are there things that are getting bogged down in the details or that seem either confusing or unnecessary? Or that could be trimmed back?
  4. Any spots that were especially interesting or engaging?

 

1. Yes, this is definitely better than the previous version! He seems like he is more focused on dealing with his panic attacks and worrying about what this all means in the greater scheme of things.

2. I don't mind Al observing the interaction with the king and queen and everything else. but even so, i think you did better this time around making Al more active.

3. I wouldn't say there is too much happening, but there definitely feels like too much bogging down the important parts (words, not things happening). I think the main thing to focus on here is cutting back everything unnecessary, like wordiness and some of the chunks of internal thought. A lot of things can be said in much fewer words.

4. I think i note this in my lbls

as i go:

pg 1

“connecting this impending disaster to an older more personal one” vague mention of past trauma?

“he said without slowing. What would the man do” hmm i feel like he should be more demanding here. Its feels a bit slow with him worrying about his lack of authority rather than the immediate danger of the princess

pg 2

“He thought he’d left that behind” ah, yes, the trauma

-halfway through this page and then on page 3, i gain more interest. The story picks up more.

pg 6

-hmmm im not clear on why he thought he should go to the tournament area. He just looks more suspicious. I guess it was his irrational thinking and panicking. Still, it felt out of place.

-ah, it was to get the other guy here (G). I see now.. sort of. actually, wait, why does G even need to be there?

pg 8

-“Why hadnt he just gone to sit with D and the others?” im confused by this line, idk who the "she" is referring to. Like earlier in the tournament? also I cant remember who lord D is, sorry >.< was he in chapter one or only introduced here? wrs possibly

pg 13

-“Al went throught the events” i think a lot of sentences like this can be cut back. It would get the same point across if you cut out the second half of the sentence. 

-”queen Es walked in” hmm losing steam here. With the king and queen coming in, it feels like this should be a more dramatic event than how i actually see it. Like, everyone is concerned for the princess but this is only the second chapter so all their worries fall flat for me because i know she’ll be okay. So when the queen walks in all worried im thinking “alright, lets move on.” the queen’s reactions, her shaky breath and worried gazes, might work better if i felt like there was actual danger. ...unless the princess doesnt recover... then.... ignore me.

-“this was what the healer had wanted” why wouldn’t she just ask him to leave before trying to trick him? Healer: “Perhaps you should go to your new quarters while i fix this” Al: “no, i dont think i will” Healer: “fine... by the way, how are your wounds? use this stone to heal yourself”  or something. Idk, it would make sense for her to try to trick him into sleeping if he had refused to leave in the first place. i didn't really see him argue too hard for staying in the room. ooh yeah, you could play up his panicking, make it almost comical (which would make him more relatable i think) and have the healer say that he is interfering with her work and stressing her out and after he refuses to leave (because he wants to be helpful even tho he isnt) she tries to trick him into using the stone. Idk, feel free to ignore my random thoughts lol. You could also do what @RedBlue said, have her explain that he might want to leave before the king/queen come.

pg 15

“You cant do this” I am a bit confused about everyone’s positions on this page. Sorry, i have to talk it out to understand everything lol. So the king and queen know the healer is a mage and the queen wants to use the healer/mage to save their daughter even tho its against the law and Al realizes that the healer must be a mage because the queen wouldn't ask for a diff healer otherwise. But the king refuses the queen’s request and says he wont break the laws. and Al wants the king to break the laws and use the mage even tho thats what killed his parents? And G was going to argue for the use of the mage as well but the king shut that down quick. I guess im confused about G’s actions when he pulls away Al. edit: so i started reading this earlier this morning and had a hard time connecting everything, so my confusion could entirely be my fault.

pg 17

“If she dies—” i feel like at this point, a lot of the tension is lost so this doesnt hit like it should

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On 6/7/2021 at 1:14 PM, kais said:

- pg 1: this page has all the makings of a good, tense chapter opening, but is bogged down in words and, I'm not sure how to describe it...turned phrases that bleed out the tension.

- pg 2: This is a critical line: 

Two days in, and he’d stumbled into a royal assassination attempt. 

Goddess preserve him. 

That I think gets lost with all the mental musing before it. 

- pg 6: through here is just very internal, a lot of musing and thoughts when I want there to be more movement and action and talking. I think that's why its so hard for me to stay invested in A--he's really internal even when he's performing actions

7 hours ago, karamel said:

I wouldn't say there is too much happening, but there definitely feels like too much bogging down the important parts (words, not things happening). I think the main thing to focus on here is cutting back everything unnecessary, like wordiness and some of the chunks of internal thought. A lot of things can be said in much fewer words.

This is definitely something I need work on all around.  I've gotten a little better at spotting it, but I still need to work on my sense of when things are getting bogged down. It was likely even worse here than usual since I was trying to push the internal thought process related to Al's history to make sure that came across.  It's good to see that it seems to have worked in that regard (progress!), but now I have to go back and trim once I have enough distance from it to get a fresh look. 

 

On 6/7/2021 at 1:14 PM, kais said:

I think mostly I'm grumpy because I really loved the part with the spellstones and was expecting BIG TIME SHENANIGANS. More spellstone trouble, please.

Magic trouble is coming.  It's just still further out than it needs to be, because I'm still having trouble finding a way to show the differences between actively cast magic and spellstones early on and clarifying where the tension of each should be.  I do have an angle in mind for a new prologue that would do that and provide a smoother introduction to some of the chapter 1 background, but it's probably going to be in rough idea form for a couple more weeks. In the meantime, I apologize that no spellstones have yet exploded. 

 

On 6/7/2021 at 6:25 PM, RedBlue said:

p5 - Al's reasoning for going to talk to the tournament officials seems a bit weak. I get that he's keeping himself busy to stave off the emotional turmoil, but it would feel less contrived if he had a stronger justification - maybe he could rationalise that smoothing things over might mitigate political fallout and help T-bor?

p5 - For similar reasons, I think Al needs a stronger reason to trust and approach Lord D. Or, you could find some other way to get them talking

8 hours ago, karamel said:

pg 6

-hmmm im not clear on why he thought he should go to the tournament area. He just looks more suspicious. I guess it was his irrational thinking and panicking. Still, it felt out of place.

-ah, it was to get the other guy here (G). I see now.. sort of. actually, wait, why does G even need to be there?

pg 8

-“Why hadnt he just gone to sit with D and the others?” im confused by this line, idk who the "she" is referring to. Like earlier in the tournament? also I cant remember who lord D is, sorry >.< was he in chapter one or only introduced here? wrs possibly

I'd thought I'd added a little more on this, but apparently it needs more clarification. Ultimately he goes back to the arena to provide the officials with an explanation of Is-'s absence, since he figures there will be bigger issues if he and Is- are both just mysteriously gone when they go to continue the tournament. 

In the version with too many meandering early chapters, Al and D interact in some of those early chapters.  He is mentioned in chapter 1, but this is the first time there's any real interaction with him. 
 

On 6/7/2021 at 6:25 PM, RedBlue said:

I know we have ragged on about the sequence with the healer trying to trick Al with the sleep stone, but I still have issues with the logic behind it.

9 hours ago, karamel said:

-“this was what the healer had wanted” why wouldn’t she just ask him to leave before trying to trick him?

Now that the two chapters are combined, It will probably be easier to see if I can shift this around to make this work better.  I was hoping that having both the healer's trickery and Al's guessing at the reason in the same chapter would make this smoother, but it seems like it probably needs more work if it's still not seeming feasible. 
 

On 6/7/2021 at 6:25 PM, RedBlue said:

p15-16 - Al standing up to the king isn't as engaging as I think it should be. I think the problem is that the king appears to be of the same opinion as Al - mages are illegal and the king can't break the law - and that makes it feel like nothing is going on here. There's no conflict between their stated opinions, and we don't have a reason to believe that the king is being duplicitous

9 hours ago, karamel said:

I am a bit confused about everyone’s positions on this page. Sorry, i have to talk it out to understand everything lol.

I'll work on nailing these things down a little more clearly as well, since there are a lot of different perspectives going on here. Ultimately, @karamel, you've got it correct.  Al is conflicted on the whole thing, but here he's pushing back against the king's insistence on keeping the laws, because if Is- dies and he gets accused of being involved, things won't go well for him or the duchy. 

@karamel and @kais, I think the end of the chapter is needed to lead into the next chapter, but it does probably need some work.  I will probably check in with you guys after I submit that chapter to see if you have thoughts on whether there are better ways to smooth over the transition between the two chapters. 

Thanks so much, All!  Lots of helpful thoughts, as always! 

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